Two prominent immigration myths are that (1) green card and permanent resident status may be preserved and not taken away if a permanent resident living abroad comes to the United States once a year, and (2) an absence from the United States for more than a year results in the loss of permanent resident status. This document views the effect of absences from the United States on lawful permanent residents and discusses the type of evidence that may overcome a presumption that a permanent resident has abandoned his or her stat us. Like other aspects of immigration law, individual situations vary, and those concerned about a particular immigration issue should consult an immigration lawyer.

Permanent resident status may be "lost " if it is deemed abandoned. The validity of the alien registration ("green") card as a travel document, as well as the retention of permanent resident  status ,  come into play when a permanent resident spends a substantial amount of time abroad.

An alien registration card is both a travel document and proof of lawful permanent resident ("LPR") stat us. A permanent resident may travel because the green card is valid as a travel document  for absences  of up to one year. Individuals who might be absent from the United States for more than twelve months should apply for a Reentry Permit, which will enable them to return to the  United  States  after  an absence of longer than one year. Applicants must be in the U.S. to apply for a Reentry Permit with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services ("USCIS"), although once approved, USCIS may forward the document to an address overseas. Reentry Permits are valid for two years. They  may not be renewed, but an individual may apply for a new Reentry Permit for another two-year period.

A permanent resident living abroad must maintain ties to the United States or else risk being denied admission or placed in removal proceedings based upon an allegation of abandonment of permanent resident status. Significantly, permanent residents returning after an absence of 180 days or more are treated as " applicants for admission, " and consequently, if a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector at entry challenges his or her admissibility or makes an allegation of abandonment, these individuals might be detained and placed in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge. Furthermore, there is a rebuttable presumption that absences of 180 days or break the continuity of residence that most naturalization applicants must maintain. Thus, it is essential for LPRs to maintain evidence of their ties to the United States. This may include, for example:


  1. U.S. tax returns filings (not as a " non-resident alien").

  2. Real estate and/or personal property in the U.S.

  3. U.S. bank accounts, credit cards, and on-going financial obligations.

  4. Membership in U.S. clubs, professional organizations, etc.

  5. Employment with or affiliation with a U.S. employer.

  6. Family ties in the U.S.

  7. Reentry Permit.

Such evidence is critical. Significantly, there is a presumption that permanent resident status has been abandoned when a permanent resident is out of the U.S. continuously for more than one year, although that presumption may be rebutted. Notably, however, abandonment may occur even in the case of an absence of less than one year, or in rare circumstances, of less than six months, when the evidence shows few or no ties to the United States and extensive ties abroad. By keeping the records of ties to the United States, lawful permanent residents who have been outside the United States  for  extended periods oftime might be able to rebut a presumption that permanent resident status has abandoned.

As of March 5, 2008, USCIS requires that applicants for re-entry permits provide biometrics before departing from the United States. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply well in advance of their anticipated travel dates to allow time to attend their Application Service Center (ASC) appointments and to receive their travel docum ents. The newly revised instructions also provide procedures for requesting an expedited ASC appointment for biometrics collection and for requesting expedited delivery of a travel document.

More detailed, case-specific advice is available from Matthews Immigration Group by scheduling a consultation.

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